The tantalizing blend of tastes and scents in nearby Chadds Ford01/06/2021 01:38PM ● By Richard Gaw
By Richard L. Gaw
When barbecued meats are slow-cooked over a full flame pit – when all of the marinades have perfectly married themselves into the vision the chef had in mind – the result is a treasure not just meant for our sense of taste but our sense of smell.
Soon after Wayne Bumm opened his Chef Bumm’s BBQ in the Springwater Plaza in Chadds Ford last year, he would watch driver after driver heading south along Wilmington Pike, suddenly attracted by the smoky waft of barbecue sweetening the air from his work station. After successfully maneuvering their respective U-turns along Wilmington Pike, they would greet Bumm, intrigued and ravenous and anxious to tuck into a juicy rack of ribs, smoked kielbasa or a platter of brisket or pulled pork or hot sausage or prime rib – topped off with an order of peach cobbler.
The people are still making U-turns. They are arriving from as near as Chadds Ford and Kennett Square to as far away as New Jersey and Reading and Lancaster – everyone from the white-collar office guy gathering lunch for his co-workers to entire families and every cross-section of humanity in between.
Bumm knows practically every customer by name, and when they arrive, they engage in the small talk of what happens when people converge at the happy place where food and friendliness meet.
“I just came from catering an office holiday party for a local iron works company, and I had seven different barbecued meats and four side dishes, and they just went nuts over it,” Bumm said recently from his Chadds Ford home, where he lives with his wife and two children. “Many have told me now that they’ve tried my food, that they plan to visit me. My goal has always been a simple one: to make everybody happy. My personality shows my appreciation, but my food seems to do most of the talking for me.”
That bananas flambé moment of inspiration
Inspiration comes in the form of many guises. It can be heard, felt and seen, but when it proves to be the catalyst that paves the course of a person’s life, the effect of its spark is extraordinary and lasting. The moment that ignited Chef Wayne Bumm’s destiny, however, was not a spark but a really beautiful flame.
“I was in the eighth grade at Gloucester County Vocational Technical School in Sewell, N.J., and they invited a chef to visit us on Career Day,” said Bumm, who was born and raised in Williamstown, N.J. “He was demonstrating for us how to make a flambé of bananas, and when I saw the fire and the flame shoot up from the spray of alcohol, that was it for me. I told my parents later that day that this is what I wanted to do with my life.”
In 1999, at the age of 18, Bumm attended culinary school at Gloucester County Vocational Technical School, winning several awards for his early cooking prowess. He complimented his education by building his own makeshift smoker that he used to start his own catering business first at family gatherings and then to private functions. The compliments to his cooking were immediate.
“When I heard them, I would feel the chills just run down my back,” he said. “Every one of them was just a reaffirmation of my goals.”
After graduating from the school, Bumm then attended culinary school at Johnson and Wales University, one of the most prestigious schools of its kind in the world, whose graduates have included chefs Emeril Lagasse and Tyler Florence, among many others.
“By the time I got to Johnson and Wales, I had acquired a lot of the skills of food preparation and cooking, but one of the most important aspects of the food business that I learned there was what it meant to be a professional,” Bumm said. “Our pants and jackets had to be pressed and starched every day. It taught me to remain focused on the tasks required of a chef, and to follow directions from start to finish.”
After graduating from Johnson and Wales in 2003, Bumm returned to New Jersey, where he and his friends opened the Warwick Tavern in Summerdale. The Warwick was the equivalent of city dining in a local tavern -- a comfy, laid-back place that featured the chef’s signature barbecue menu, as well as steaks, chops and seafood.
After two years at the Warwick, Bumm became the executive chef at Dover Downs, but soon, his restlessness to leave the 70-hour-a-week pressure cooker world of hotel restaurants became empowering. He missed the interaction with his customers, the aroma of his own creations and the tactile feeling of marrying perfectly marinated meat to a scalding smoker.
Bumm launched Chef Bumm’s BBQ in 2015, and he’s never been happier – or busier. Three months ago, he moved his location from the Brewer’s Outlet on Route 202 in Chadds Ford – where he would often do special events -- to Springwater Plaza, where he partners with his neighbor Big Cheese Pizza.
“Melinda and Neil of Big Cheese Pizza came to me a few months ago with the idea of driving more customers to both businesses,” Bumm said. “It’s been a great relationship for both of us, and one that’s become convenient for families. On Thursday nights, for instance, Mom and Dad will buy pizza for their kids and barbecue from me. People now have the advantage of having a variety of items for their dinner.”
‘WE WILL RETURN!’
Chef Bumm’s BBQ has also earned a reputation as a road warrior, fulfilling a growing number of catering menus for weddings, corporate luncheons, graduations, birthday parties and themed events. In any given week, Bumm will create a Hawaiian luau with a variety of seafood dishes, and then on another night, welcome guests to a wine-pairing dinner that features New York Strip steaks, filet mignon, Ribeye steaks and a variety of wines personally chosen by Bumm that compliment the menu.
With each event and with each platter dinner served, an equal amount of compliments continue to pour in.
“If you’re American and you love freedom, you have to eat at Chef Bumm’s BBQ. It’s a bulls eye, cowboy,” read the note of one satisfied customer who posted on the businesses’ social media page. “I just picked up pulled pork [from Chef Bumm’s BBQ]. Amazing…Flavor, texture and overall taste. Texas level!” read another.
One happy customer recently wrote, “My husband and I bought a brisket platter and a pulled pork platter last night. Everything was delicious. WE WILL RETURN!”
In an industry that increasingly measures its value more by the number of Michelin stars it receives than the quality of food it serves, Wayne Bumm has said goodbye to all of that. He doesn’t need stars; he’s got the loyalty of his customers, who stop by the smoker in front of Big Cheese Pizza in Chadds Ford for the chance to chat with a chef and take home a few platters for their family.
Bumm knows who they are by name and that they come all the way from Phoenixville and Norristown and Franklinville, N.J., as well as Chadds Ford and Kennett Square. He also knows that for certain, someone new will drive by Springwater Plaza and become tantalized by the scent of barbecue, turn around, reconfigure their day and ask, “What’s going on here?”
“I regularly have people take home a complete dinner with all of the sides that comes in a Styrofoam container, and when they get home, they take photographs of their meal and send it back to me with compliments,” he said. “People have asked me why I choose not to be open five days a week or franchise out my business, and each time I tell them that it’s because I take a lot of pride in my work and in my relationships with my customers, and I don’t want to ever lose that.
“I call it ‘The Love.’”
Chef Bumm’s BBQ is located in the Springwater Plaza, on 364 Wilmington Pike in Chadds Ford, and is open on Mondays from 12 p.m. to 8 p.m., and Thursdays from 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. To learn more about catering services and private events, visit Chef Bumm’s BBQ on Facebook or call 856-375-3120.